Patch 3.3.3 PTR: Death knight changes

Daniel Whitcomb
D. Whitcomb|02.20.10

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Patch 3.3.3 PTR: Death knight changes
The Patch 3.3.3 PTR notes are out, and with them a nice handful of death knight changes. Oddly enough, most of them are buffs. The focus this time seems to be mostly on slightly buff death knight tanking, giving frost DPS some arguably much needed buffs, and applying some general changes to specific talents in the death knight class. While we'll need to see some PTR testing to be sure, it looks like frost DPS may be out of the pit and sitting pretty indeed. Without further ado, let's take a look at the changes.

General Changes

Icy Touch: This ability now causes a very high amount of threat while the death knight is in Frost Presence - In a perfect world, the DPS would hold off for a bit while you grabbed aggro. In reality, they're generally going full blast while you're still trying to position the boss so it doesn't cleave the healers. Any change that allows for a chance to overcome that little issue, especially with PuGs becoming more and more common even for raid content, is more than welcome.
Rune of Razorice: Now stacks 5 stacks of 2% Frost Vulnerability instead of 10 stacks of 1% Frost Vulnerability. Proc chance changed to 100% -- This gives frost DPSers a chance to get to their full damage potential a bit faster on fights where they need to move or switch targets a lot. It's a minor but certainly far from unwelcome change.
Abomination's Might: This effect is now passive instead of being a proc on certain strikes. Rank 1 is 5% attack power and Rank 2 is 10% attack power. The self strength buff remains unchanged -- I can't say I have ever heard of a blood death knight being kicked for a marksman hunter because his AP buff is more dependable, but this is still certainly not an unwelcome change. If nothing else it should help keep the buff going on fights with lots of movement or if the blood death knight messes up his rotation for some reason.
Will of the Necropolis: There is no longer a cool down on the frequency at which this talent can be activated. In addition, this ability can now also be triggered by damage which deals less than 5% of your health - One of Blood's main weaknesses as a tank tree is the lack of truly preventative cool downs or abilities. Even Vampiric Blood requires incoming healing to be truly effective. Will of the Necropolis is one of the few ways blood tanks have to outright absorb or deflect damage that other trees don't have. Given that it only absorbs 15% of a single hit's damage at a specific level of health, I don't think its too overpowered to remove a few other restrictions.
Endless Winter: No longer causes Frost Fever to be applied by Chains of Ice, but instead grants 2/4% strength. The previous functionality of this talent can now be attained via the Glyph of Chains of Ice -- This patch is definitely the patch of frost DPS buffing, and strength buffing is a nice solid path to take, since it does affect all damage done.
Improved Icy Talons: This effect is now passive instead of being a proc. The self haste buff remains unchanged - See my notes on Abomination's Might. This is certainly not an unwelcome change at all, and makes a needlessly complicated mechanic a bit simpler.
Nerves of Cold Steel: Now increases off-hand damage by 8/16/25%, up from 5/10/15% -- Here's yet another frost DPS buff, this one on the side of weapons strikes. This should lead to higher damage on Obliterates, Plague Strikes, and Blood Strikes, thus buffing damage while leading to less chance that frost will accidentally veer off into spam Icy Touch and Howling Blast territory once more.
Unbreakable Armor: The amount of strength granted is now 20%, up from 10% -- Since you need a frost rune to activate Unbreakable Armor, I'm not completely sure whether or not it will find a regular place in frost damage rotations even with the extra burst damage, but it's definitely a welcome threat and parry boost for frost tanks, if nothing else.
Scourge Strike: Now deals 70% weapon damage, plus 12% of physical damage done as shadow damage for each of the death knight's diseases on the target. The net result should be larger strikes with no diseases present, while maximum damage with all diseases applied to the target should stay the same -- Believe it or not, preliminary math suggests that this is exactly what it says on the tin. It should be a bit of a buff for more frantic, dispel-prone PvP battles, while leaving unholy PvE DPS relatively unscathed. There may be a slight DPS drop in PvE, but nothing to worry about. Unless PTR testing proves otherwise, Unholy DPSers can feel free to continue gearing, gemming, speccing, and attacking as they always have been. And no, I don't think there's much danger of anyone making a successful diseaseless unholy build.

Glyph of Chains of Ice: Now causes Chains of Ice to apply Frost Fever instead of dealing damage -- Given that the glyph currently just does a rather small amount of frost damage, I don't see too many people mourning this change either way.
Glyph of Disease: When this glyph causes Frost Fever to be refreshed, it will now also trigger a refresh of Icy Talons -- This will be a nice change that may make the glyph viable for Frost DPSers who use Icy Talons. Of course, testing will probably be needed to see if this makes it better than other glyphs, and it what situations. Either way though, it feels like a pretty solid no-brainer fix. If there is one question here though, one would sort of wonder why normal Icy Talons wasn't just passive alongside Improved Icy Talons. It seems unnecessarily punitive toward the death knight.

Patch 3.3.3 is up on the PTR and as with every new patch there's a flurry of new information. Check out the official patch notes, changes to battlegrounds, new achievements that hint at future content, new models (and more new models) in the game files, things to do with those pesky frozen orbs, UI updates, and perhaps more to come before it hits the live realms.
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